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Persian Nights- A child in Iran by Alaka Rajan Skinner 

“If anyone had told me that I would be holding a machine gun and seeing my first Molotov cocktail before the age of 10, I would have laughed. But then came Iran….”

Thus starts the graphic novel, Persian Nights- A Child in Iran by Alaka Rajan Skinner (Talking Cub). It explores the journey of the young protagonist, and that of her family, when they move to Tehran, away from the predictable routine of their home in Hyderabad. 

The immigrant experience is shown to us through us through the eyes of the young child, who lives here with her parents and younger brother. The initial part of the book evokes a picture of their routine lives- the bonding with the Indian community in Tehran, the sights and sounds of the city, the people around them, the social interactions and other aspects of daily life. She went to the Indian School in Tehran and learnt Farsi, along with the Indian languages. 

And then came the revolution. 

And with it, came violence. From the child’s point of view, the reader is slowly drawn into a new world, devoid of the soothing peace and fun that used to be a part of her regular life. Now, the school bus windows had to remain shut, lest there be stones thrown. There was firing on the streets. One just couldn’t go out and play. If father came home a little later than usual, there would be fear of his safety, a niggling fear of something that could have happened.

She was even sent back to India for a year. When she returned, it was to a changed reality. Father had a new job, rations  were less, there was more firing.

The inner life and fears of a child who faces the impact of war and civil disturbance is brought out poignantly. Little mundane things in life change so much, and they change our life so much! Harsh realities creep and crawl their way into the very routine of living. 

This book is born out of the authors personal experience. The protagonist and her family return back home. However, the rich experience that an intercultural environment can bring to the life of a child is not lost. And yes, that does bring a warm feeling, until the cold harsh reality of the divided times we live in hits hard. 

I can’t help but feel that how much is lost, how much innocence sacrificed in the aftermath of violence. Persian Nights- A child in Iran by Alaka Rajan Skinner is an innocent reminder of how much one gains in peace, and how much is lost in war! It is a beautiful warm read that could be an apt read for children aged 10 upwards. Schools, parents or book clubs can stimulate interesting themes and discussions around this. 

Dhanishta Shah

Dhanishta is a Counselling Psychologist and a freelance writer. She is the Founder of Bookedforlife.